March Newsletter
NSF Workshop Viedos & Transcript Now Online
Preserving Artifacts at Hanford's T Plant
New Additions to "Voices of the Manhattan Project"
Manhattan Project Park in the News
"The Girls of Atomic City" Book Review
"Emperor" Film Review
Quick Links

With the introduction of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act in the Senate and House, we have had a very exciting March. Working with the National Parks Conservation Association, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Energy Communities Alliance, and local communities, we are encouraging Congressional members to support the bill. We expect some action in April and will keep you apprised!
Please contact your representatives 
and ask them to support the park!

NSF Workshop Videos & Transcript Now Online


On February 14-15, 2013, AHF hosted a workshop funded by the National Science Foundation, "Transforming the Relationship between Science and Society: Interpreting the Manhattan Project." The workshop featured experts in the humanities and informal science learning, representatives from Manhattan Project museums, the National Park Service and DOE.


We have uploaded video of all the presentations and some of the discussions to our YouTube page: AHF Workshop: Interpreting the Manhattan Project. Some of the presentations include:

  • Moral Responsibilities of Scientists by Joseph Rotblat biographer Andrew Brown, sociologist Kelly Moore, and Lemelson Center, Smithsonian, director Arthur Molella.
  • The Decision to Drop the Bomb by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes, retired Nuclear Regulatory Commission historian J. Samuel Walker, and J. Shipley Newlin of the Science Museum of Minnesota.
  • Culture of Secrecy by historian Alex Wellerstein and informal science learning expert Mac West.
  • The Cold War: Avoiding Armageddon by Federation of American Scientists President Charles Ferguson and the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) President Bud Rock.
  • The Debate over the Bomb, a discussion among the participants on the scholarly debate over the decision to drop the bomb including American University historian Peter Kuznick and Richard Rhodes.

We have also transcribed the entirety of the workshop; to download the transcript, click here.


The Atomic Heritage Foundation will be partnering with leading science and history museums to develop plans for a national traveling exhibit. The goal is to have an exhibition ready for the 75th anniversary of the Manhattan Project in 2017.


Preserving Artifacts at Hanford's T Plant

The T Plant under construction

On March 23, the Tri-City Herald published an article describing preservation efforts at Hanford's T Plant, Hanford's T Plant being marked for preservation, piece by piece. Colleen French, the DOE government affairs program manager, is working to preserve historic artifacts from the T Plant, the first chemical separation plant at Hanford. The items include signs, equipment, panels, and more.


Eventually, French hopes to have the artifacts displayed in a community-based facility, and duplicate items may be used for other exhibits, including traveling exhibits. Many of the workers at Hanford had family members who worked at the site in the past. Saving artifacts "is a really meaningful way to honor their predecessors, whether it's family members or the workers who came before," French said. We look forward to seeing these historic items in exhibits in the future.


To learn more about the history of the T Plant, check out our oral histories with Watson Warriner, who helped build it, and Steve Buckingham, who talks about the design and operation of the T Plant.


New Additions to 
"Voices of the Manhattan Project"
Voices of the Manhattan Project is a partnership between the Atomic Heritage Foundation and the Los Alamos Historical Society (LAHS). LAHS oral histories with Berlyn Brixner, who filmed the Trinity test, and Harold Agnew, who was flying above Hiroshima as a scientific observer when the bomb was dropped and later served as director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, were added to "Voices" in March, as were the AHF interviews excerpted below.
Born in Czechoslovakia, Lilli Hornig
and her family immigrated to the United States from Berlin after her father was threatened with imprisonment in a concentration camp. She was a young chemist when her husband, Don Hornig, was personally asked by George Kistiakowsky to come to Los Alamos to work on a secret project. At first she worked on plutonium chemistry, but after concern was raised that plutonium could cause "reproductive damage" for women, she began working for the explosives group. A witness to the Trinity test, she recalls the vivid colors of the blast.  


Anne McKusick worked at the Y-12 Plant for Tennessee Eastman. She remembers dancing with Ernest Lawrence at one of Oak Ridge's dances. Because of the pervasive emphasis on secrecy, she nearly got in trouble for carrying around a book on Russian.




Watson C. Warriner, Sr. , a trained chemical engineer, worked for DuPont on the Manhattan Project. During the war he worked on building ordnance plants and acid plants, and helped design and build the chemical separation plants at Hanford (also known as the 221 T-plant or "Queen Marys"). He discusses the trains and cask car system used at Hanford and life in the dormitories on the secret site. He recalls going to New York City with his wife to celebrate V-J Day with thousands of other people crowded into the streets.


Manhattan Project Park in the News
The control panel at the B Reactor
The national media reported on the introduction of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act in mid-March. In World Archaeology, Tom St. John Gray has an article discussing the controversy about creating a park commemorating The Manhattan Project. Gray notes Dennis Kucinich's concern that the park would glorify the atomic bomb; in response, he quotes Princeton history professor Michael Gordin: "It does not seem to me that preserving Civil War battlefields glorifies bloodshed, nor that the Manzanar National Historic Site in California glorifies Japanese internment. The purpose of preserving these sites is to remember and to educate." 
AHF President Cindy Kelly is also quoted in support of the park and interpreting this history: "Sweeping difficult or controversial chapters in American history under the rug makes no sense. The National Park Service will help us better understand the historical context of the decisions to develop and use the atomic bomb, and provide us multiple perspectives to reflect upon and make our own judgement of the past."

A sampling of other news articles on the introduction of the legislation includes pieces in the Knoxville News Sentinel, the Tri-City Herald, and Oak Ridge Today.


"The Girls of Atomic City" Book Review


Denise Kiernan's The Girls of Atomic City has rightfully received national acclaim. This engaging book recounts the stories of women who were the backbone of the top-secret community of Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project. In addition to following many wonderful "characters," Kiernan digs into the archives to find reports on discrimination, hardship and mental stress. 


The book is a compelling and nuanced account of life in the Manhattan Project. Congratulations to Ms. Kiernan for making a lasting historical contribution and gift to the women of the Manhattan Project.


Kiernan has appeared on PBS Newshour and The Daily Show discussing the book.

"Emperor" Film Review

Emperor Trailer
Emperor Trailer


AHF staff member Alexandra Levy recently saw the movie "Emperor," which is about General Douglas MacArthur's decision not to try Emperor Hirohito for war crimes after World War II. Although Tommy Lee Jones shone as the bombastic general, his acting was one of the few high points of the movie. 


The main character, woodenly played by Matthew Fox, is General Bonner Fellers, who has a mere ten days to determine whether Hirohito should be put on trial.

Not surprisingly, the movie inaccurately tells the story of the decision. Fellers is portrayed as honestly trying to get to the bottom of Hirohito's guilt and to determine the impact trying the Emperor would have on the Japanese people. Historically, General Fellers actually pushed leading Japanese political and military officials to coordinate their stories to exonerate the Emperor. The majority of the film concerns an extremely boring love affair Fellers had with a Japanese woman, whom he is desperately trying to find in bombed-out Japan.


"Emperor" was a movie about a fascinating topic that does not live up to its potential. Instead of seeing the movie, we recommend reading a book about this period, such as John Dower's Embracing Defeat or Herbert Bix's Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan.


Thank you for your interest in the Manhattan Project and for contributing to our efforts.



Atomic Heritage Foundation